We all use the internet without much thought any more, but has it occurred to you that some of your online activities might be illegal? Just because it’s all a couple of clicks away and seems so easy doesn’t mean that you aren’t in dubious legal territory.

 

Infringing copyright

This is the biggest crime most people are guilty of.

Torrenting is technically not illegal. Technically. But file sharing is the modern day version of copying a CD or DVD. The person who has posted the file is the one who has broken the law; you were just looking at the thing that was already there, right? Well, yes and no. Some ISPs have tried to crack down on this by threatening to pull the plug on guilty users’ internet supply and some people have been taken to court and prosecuted. It’s still a bit of a grey area and could be one to avoid. There are plenty of legal streaming sites where the user pays for an agreed amount of content. As a rule avoid any website that gives you unlimited content for free.

Right clicking on an image and saving it to your PC might not be illegal, but it is if you then use that image for something else. The photo is someone else’s intellectual property and this is another form of copyright infringement. There are sites that have free images you can use and often the only thing they ask is that you credit the photographer if you use it elsewhere.

GIFs can also be a copyright infringement. You may not have created the GIF yourself, but someone did, often using stolen movie footage or pictures to which they don’t have rights.

Recording yourself singing and uploading it to YouTube can be problematic too. Any song written by someone else is owned by someone else and recording and releasing a version for which you don’t have permission can potentially be depriving artists and songwriters of income from royalties. This also applies to Happy Birthday, which is still protected by copyright law, so think twice about sharing footage from your child’s birthday party.

Software and programming code is also someone’s intellectual property and using this without permission could land you in hot water too.

There are however sometimes exceptions where people are happy for you to share their work, but always check first before you do this. It’s good to stay on the inside of copyright law.

 

Dishonesty

Everybody tells a white lie every now and again, but there are some things you shouldn’t lie about.

Certain social media sites such as Facebook have a minimum age limit and for very good reason as there is often adult themed content to be found there. It’s very easy to open a Facebook account if you’re underage by simply lying about your age. It’s very easy because they don’t check. However when you click on a box to verify that the information you have provided is entirely factual you are entering a legal minefield if you’ve provided false or misleading information.

Using a fake name is also illegal. It supposedly reduces criminality if everyone has to use their real name. Not everyone does and they could feel the wait of the law for their dishonesty.

Using a fake IP address is also not allowed by law. It might be easy to do if you have the knowhow, but you shouldn’t. If you wish to remain more or less anonymous whilst online you can always use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to legitimately cover your tracks.

 

Earning money

There’s nothing illegal about that, but it’s whether you are declaring your earnings or not.

Selling on eBay is something which needs to be declared. While it’s almost farcical that selling something you bought for $10 five years ago today for $1 needs to be declared, it’s legally still considered income and is therefore taxable.

Working remotely is great and a lot of people do it, but what if you take your laptop on holiday to do a bit of work? Do you have a work permit for the country you’re visiting? No? Then I’m afraid you’re breaking the law.

Registering domain names for companies in the hope of selling them at a vast profit was something many tried to do at the turn of the millennium, but sadly it backfired. Companies sued many of these people for using registered trademarks illegally.

 

Cyberbullying

This is in the news a lot, but it doesn’t need to be a relentless assault to be classed as cyberbullying. One defamatory remark could be enough to land you in hot water. Extra bad if it also happens to be libellous.

 

Not paying for things

This was partly covered in the copyright section, but there is also the crime of circumventing paywalls. Online news outlets need to pay journalists and they have to get the money from somewhere which is why they often charge for articles. Some people have figured out how to work around these and it’s very clever, but sadly it counts as theft.

 

Going on the deep web

The deep web or dark internet sounds quite sinister and it can be. Venturing into this strange world could see you happen upon something which you shouldn’t and there are all kinds of illegal things you can accidentally click on. Stay away!

 

Sharing passwords

You should never share your password with anyone, ever, the end. But what if you share a work login with someone or you have a joint Facebook account? Sadly it’s illegal, bizarrely.

 

Free wifi

Free wifi isn’t illegal if it’s offered. It’s that which isn’t offered which is the problem. Looking to connect you generally find a whole list of possible connections. Finding an unsecure internet service and connecting to it isn’t a case of finders keepers, it’s also considered theft.

 

So that’s just a few of the major laws people regularly break when online. How many do you break? It might be time to rethink how you use the internet in that case.